I have just been to my butcher and, despite the fact that I had never seen before the guy who was serving me, he called me ‘Darling, Sweetheart and Honey’ in the space of a couple of minutes, as if buying some steaks made us old friends. That’s just the way it is over here. I am told that there is nothing personal; it is just a way to make you more at ease, apparently. Well, it had the opposite effect on me. I miss the French shops where you are greeted by a lovely ‘Bonjour, Madame!’.
I then had a conference call with various colleagues and despite the fact that we have never met face to face, we were all on a first name basis. At some point, one of the participants started to shorten everybody’s name and from then on I was called ‘Mu’. After all, why not? I can’t say that I like it but I put up with it. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter, does it?
Most of the time, I like the fact that things are less formal over here, but it can get a bit too much for me. Where do you draw the line? A British colleague once gave me his card with his hotel room number written behind ‘In case I needed anything’. Thanks, but not thanks. The thing is, the way he said it felt completely natural, as if he was asking how the weather was. Weird.
In France, we have two ways to address someone: the formal you (‘vous’), and the informal one (‘tu’). I am told that things are changing fast and that now, everybody uses the informal way at the office. When I was working in France (9 years ago), things were still rather formal. That said, I remember one of the big bosses grilling me during a meeting and then, during the evening, explaining to me the benefits of dating older men. Thanks, but no thanks. Come to think of it, unlike the British colleague, I am not even sure that he knew my first name.
This got me thinking: where has chivalry gone? Don’t get me wrong, I am not expecting men to bow to my every whim on a white horse and in shiny armour, but some respect would be nice. Maybe I was just unlucky with these two. I don’t think that maintaining a safe distance goes against feminism. What do you think?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London